Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Warning! The following entry has a gluten and dairy-full recipe. There is a GF and DF version at the bottom.

My friends Jake and Joy got married a few weeks back and asked me to make the desserts for the party. The groom is gluten free so I knew the cake would be too and I knew it would come from Flavor Flours (I made a four-layer chocolate cake with milk chocolate and whipped cream frosting, but that’s a story for another day). The desserts for the masses, though, that took some thinking. Jake and Joy wanted to be surprised so I perused my cookbooks and bounced ideas off of friends.

And then it hit me. Back when ATE Cafe existed in Austin, my sister used to make a bread pudding usually with their leftover chocolate croissants. After Joy tasted it years ago,  I recall conversations like, “Oh you’re going to the cafe, maybe I can get some bread pudding”, “I think I need your sister to cater so I can get some of that bread pudding” and so on. Of course this is what I would make for Joy’s party! I called my sister and asked for the recipe.

I had never made bread pudding so I was FULL of questions (hence the very detailed instructions below). My sister texted me her custard recipe and slowly but surely answered all of my questions as they came up: Do I need to let it sit? Can I freeze it? Do I toast the bread? And so much more. I experimented with a batch a month in advance, froze it, and brought it to gluten-eating friends’ brunch to taste. Because I couldn’t try it, I brought along a list of questions for them to answer so I could adjust as needed for the occasion.

When it was time to actually make the real version, I had a hive breakout and stayed in isolation for days. Instead of making the pudding ahead of time (half the reason I chose bread pudding!), I was stuck at home starting to panic. Finally, Sunday night I covered myself up and prayed I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew at the grocery store. I piled my cart full of bread and cream (the two ingredients I would NEVER touch) and stumbled into line. And then I felt some customer get way too close to me. It was Joy. So much for a surprise! I mumbled something about making food for work and she sort of bought it. For a while.

I made two full-sized restaurant pans of bread pudding, one with chocolate and one without. In the middle of the week I freaked out that that wouldn’t be enough for 100 people so I made a gluten free version too. Breakfast leftovers were really tasty. The following recipes have minimal ingredients, can be made ahead, and are very forgiving- perfect for baking for the masses!

Bread Pudding
serves 10-12
2 loaves bread*
4 eggs
4 yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups whipping cream
1 cup dark chocolate chips, optional

To prepare the bread, remove the bottom crust only (a very thin slice will do) and throw away. Cut or tear the bread into non-uniform bite-sized chunks. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine all other ingredients (except chocolate) in a separate bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour 3/4 of the liquid over the bread and mix with your hands, massaging the liquid into the bread for a minute or two. Place mixture into a 9×12 baking dish and then pour the remaining 1/4 of liquid over the top. It will be mounded in the dish and most of the liquid will be absorbed.

If using the chocolate, melt in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Instead of pouring all of the pudding in the baking dish, pour half in, drizzle the chocolate over the top, and then pour the remaining bread pudding on top of the chocolate (if you put the chocolate on last, it will likely burn while baking).

From here I covered it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer until I was ready to bake it off. You can freeze unbaked for up to three weeks.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and place uncovered frozen bread pudding directly in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, cover with foil and bake for another 18-22 minutes. The pudding should be hot all the way through and some of the top pieces will be crisp and browned. Baking time will vary depending on how large the loaves of bread are. Using a skewer, take a small piece from the center to ensure doneness.

If you are not freezing it, place directly in the oven at 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes then cover and bake for another 15 minutes.

*Choose a French or Italian rustic white bread loaf. I chose La Brea Organic French Loaf. You want to find a bread that is firm, unflavored, and not too crusty. The bread does not need to be stale. Use the day you buy it or within five days.

Whiskey Sauce
adapted from Emeril Lagasse
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3-4 Tablespoons whiskey
1 Tablespoon butter

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and salt. Stir over low-medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk 2 Tablespoons whiskey with the cornstarch, breaking up any lumps. Add the whiskey mixture into the saucepan. Bring mixture to a low boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and an additional tablespoon of whiskey. If you like your whiskey a little stronger, add another tablespoon.

Serve right away or let cool, cover, and chill for up to 3 days. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Bread Pudding
Follow all instructions for bread pudding above, except replace heavy cream with half coconut milk and half coconut cream. Use a crusty white bread like Udi’s.

If using Udi’s, lightly toast all slices of bread in the oven (both sides) to dry it out. Be sure to massage the liquid into the bread pieces.

Because I couldn’t eat the sauce, I also made one version where I poured 2 Tablespoons of whiskey directly on top before baking. That was delicious too.

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Boozy Orange Cake

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I’ve made this cake and variations of it now dozens of times since the first go round. It has come to be one of my favorite standby desserts. My most popular version and the one I’ve now made over and over… and over again is this boozy variation. It’s very dense and moist and I love that my new officemates still get baffled when I tell them it’s gluten free. And dairy free.

Boozy Orange Cake
3 medium oranges
2 cups (280 grams) almonds (blanched or slivered)
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 Tablespoons orange liqueur*
2 cups (500 grams) sugar

*Any orange liqueur will work. I use Paula’s Texas Orange or Patron Citronge.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the oranges. Cover and boil gently for 1 1/2 hours- turning over once at the half-way point. Strain the oranges and bring to room temperature. You can do this step ahead and place the oranges in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a springform pan and line with parchment paper.

Place almonds in the food processor and blend until somewhat fine, leaving some texture. Add other dry ingredients (rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and mix.

Remove dry ingredients and place in a large bowl. Cut oranges in half and place in the processor. Blend until almost smooth- just about 30 seconds. Add the eggs, sugar, extract, and liqueur and mix. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix (a whisk or spatula works).

Bake for 40 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes.The top will be browned but not crisp. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs attached.

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Three Layer Peanut Butter Brownies (Raw)

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These were amazingly rich and decadent and though I made them myself, I couldn’t believe they were raw (and vegan and sugar free and gluten free). Everyone’s favorite Sal-Pal left town and for her going away bash I had to think quick for a vegan and gluten free treat. Enter- brownies.

These are an adaptation of a raw peppermint brownie I made at Kaylee’s Thai Fresh Vegan Baking Class. They are incredibly easy and tasty and after making them a half dozen times, I’ve adapted them and made a dozen variations (extra layers, different flavors). This one was created especially for Sally, the peanut butter loving fiend that she is.

Brownies
1 cup (5 oz) almonds
1 cup (4 oz) pecans
1 1/2 cups (9 oz) dates, chopped
1/2 cup (4 oz) dried plums (prunes), chopped
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup
pinch of salt

Line an 8×8 baking pan with saran wrap. Blend the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the pecans and blend until fine. Add the dates and prunes and blend. You will need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Add the cocoa powder, syrup and salt. Blend until the dough comes together. Press evenly into the prepared pan and chill while you make the next layers.

Peanut Butter Layer
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup peanuts
pinch salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1-2 T maple syrup (more to taste)

Blend the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the peanuts but set aside 2 Tablespoons for later. Add the peanut butter and syrup and blend. Press the peanut butter layer evenly over the brownie layer, sprinkle the extra 2 Tablespoons of peanuts for a crunch on top and return to the refrigerator. Now make the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

In a blender or with a handheld mixer, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. While warm, pour all ganache over the brownies and smooth with a spoon. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably over night. Cut into squares or triangles and serve.

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Salted Chocolate and Nut Triangles

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I made these for a vegan’s going-away fiesta and they were a hit. These were a quick and easy naturally gluten free and vegan treat- the texture was somewhere between fudge and a chocolate bar. I used chopped walnuts, pecans, and almonds for these but they can be done with a variety of options or stick to just one kind of nut. Try also using half the amount of nuts and add half dried cherries.

Salted Chocolate and Nut Squares
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup (8-9 ounces) 70%-72% dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, pecans, and almonds
1/2-1 teaspoon flake or sea salt

Toast and cool the chopped nuts. Set aside. Line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and chocolate together. If you’re multitasking, use a double-broiler, otherwise stir constantly over low-heat until chocolate is melted. Fold in the vanilla and then the nuts (cherries if using).

Pour chocolate into prepared pan. Spread the mixture evenly. Sprinkle desired amount of salt over the top. Refrigerate until chocolate is soft but not liquid. Cut desired shape directly in the pan and return to the refrigerator. When completely firm, break pieces apart and serve.

Store in the fridge if you don’t finish them within the hour.

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Sesame Balls

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I made these sweet Sesame Balls filled with Red Bean Paste to ring in the Chinese New Year.

The paste is two ingredients and the sesame balls are another two. Yep, that’s it. Both were pretty fool-proof. They were amazingly simple however also a bit tedious (hence the long instructions below). Make sure you leave plenty of time and have some good background music or enlist a few helpers.

Red Bean Paste
6 ounces small red beans
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons grapeseed oil

Wash the beans, cover with cold water, and soak overnight. Drain and place beans in a medium saucepan and cover completely with fresh water. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1-1/2 hours or until beans are very soft. Check every so often to ensure there is still plenty of liquid covering the beans, add more if necessary. When tender, strain beans.

Place the beans and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beans and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring to incorporate the oil. Beans are done when they are fairly dry. Set aside.

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Sesame Balls
1 cup water
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 cups glutinous rice flour
oil for frying (grapeseed and vegetable oil)
1 cup sesame seeds

In a small saucepan, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat.

Create a well with the rice flour in a medium bowl. Slowly add the hot liquid and stir until completely smooth. Knead a couple of times in the bowl to pick up any dry flour. The dough should be play-dough consistency and easy to work with. Divide the dough into four parts. As you use each part, cover the remaining pieces with a damp cloth.

Roll one part into a snake, about 1 inch in diameter. Pinch off about 1 inch pieces and roll each into a ball (you’ll have about 6-8). Have a small bowl of water nearby as the dough can get slightly dry.

Heat a wok or a deep skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to make about 4 inches deep. Heat the oil to 350. And work with the heat to keep it at 350 the whole time.

Form the balls into a cup in your hand and fill with about 1 teaspoon of red bean paste. They will not explode if you over or under fill them! Pinch all sides of the cup around the paste back together and roll into a ball. Use water as necessary to make sure there are no cracks. Repeat with all pieces from this snake (do this to all 6-8 pieces before the next step).

Place wax paper on the counter and pour about 1/3-1/2 cup of the sesame seeds. Dip one ball at a time into the bowl of water and then roll in sesame seeds. Repeat with all 6-8 pieces you have rolled so far. When the oil reaches 350, add this round of balls to the oil and cook for 2 minutes. Stir and flip them around and cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you opt to make larger sesame balls, they will need 6-8 minutes.

While the first round is cooking, move on to the next snake and repeat above steps. It took exactly the amount of time to roll 6-8 balls as it did for the prior round to cook. So there was no waiting around between batches. As the balls are done, remove them to a baking sheet lined with 2-3 layers of paper towels. Then add the next batch ready to go. Repeat.

These are best right out of the wok but can wait at room temperature for several hours.

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Pancetta, Manchego and Caramelized Onion Biscuits

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I’ve been working on a buckwheat biscuit recipe for quite some time now. I’ve had some successes and many, many fails. I thought I would have it all figured out by now but it’s still a toss up whether the next batch will work or not.

I had a Meat and Scone Brunch to attend but rather than hedging my bets with a new creation, I set aside my buckwheat flour and pulled out Blackbird Bakery’s Gluten Free Flour Mix. I keep a couple of her mixes on hand for “just in case moments” such as these. I opted to use her bread and pizza blend and create something a little different. Using a pre-made flour mix (use only those you know and love!) means baking like the days of yore. It means I’m not measuring flours but I’m still creating something from scratch which was exactly what I wanted and had time for. This recipe is loosely based on a Sausage Bialy Biscuit by Silvana’s Kitchen

Pancetta, Manchego, Caramelized Onion Biscuits
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Blackbird Bakery GF flour mix
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus some
pepper
6 Tablespoons butter (earth balance), cold
3-4 slices pancetta, diced
1/4 cup chopped manchego cheese (or more)
3/4 cup almond milk, plus 2 Tablespoons for brushing

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a skillet, saute the pancetta until just crisp over medium heat. Remove the pancetta (leave the oil) and add the onion. Stir until translucent and soft. Set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and a dash of pepper. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with your fingers until the dough is uniformly crumbly. Add the pancetta, onions, and cheese and mix. Stir in the milk and mix until completely absorbed (with a fork or your hands).

You have options here: roll about 1-2 tablespoons of the dough into a ball, place them on the baking sheet and leave them as is or flatten them with the palm of your hand for a uniform biscuit. Or my preferred look and feel: scoop the dough with an ice cream scoop, place on the baking sheet, and gently press with the tips of your fingers- this turns out a more rustic biscuit.

Brush all of the biscuits with the remaining almond milk and sprinkle with course salt. Bake for about 22-24 minutes (this will vary depending on how flat you pressed them), until they are golden brown in some spots.

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Lemony Broccoli Soup (and garlicky too)

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Best. Broccoli. Soup. Ever. I dropped by Springdale Farm on my way to work the other day and saw some beautiful broccoli I needed to have. That’s odd for one reason: I don’t particularly care for broccoli. But it looked so tempting. I came home and immediately made soup for the week. And then I ate it in two sittings. I will make this all season.

To serve this soup you can top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream (as pictured), a little olive oil and coarse salt, or grate parmesan or another salty and hard cheese right on top. Serve with a crusty bread or just straight piping hot in a mug on the go. Don’t worry about being precise with this recipe- it can take a little flexibility.

Lemony-Garlicky Broccoli Soup
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery stocks, chopped (leaves on)
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic, bruised and separated
1 pound broccoli florets and some stock, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 lemon and zest
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
salt and pepper to taste
optional garnishes:
parmesan, yogurt, chives, parsley

In a large skillet, sauté the onion, celery, carrot, and 2 cloves of the garlic until just soft and onions are starting to become translucent. Add the broccoli, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Stir in lemon zest, parsley and 1 clove garlic (chopped). Pour in 3 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer the soup partially covered for about 15 minutes. If the broccoli is not completely tender continue to cook for 10 more minutes and add more broth so the liquid continues to reach about 1/2 or 3/4 up the vegetables.

When the broccoli is tender, puree the soup. Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and stir. Taste for salt, pepper, and more lemon. Add more broth if you want it thinner.

Serve hot (or cold) with any number of the garnish options.

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